Dear Mrs. Obama,
In response to your e-mail of today, July 18, 2010, from which I quote:
"...help us tackle an issue that is dear to my heart — childhood obesity. As some of you know one of my top priorities as First Lady is the Let’s Move! campaign, where we have made it our goal to put a stop to the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so children who are born today grow up at a healthy weight."
Mrs. Obama, my respect for you has taken a serious hit since you initiated your campaign against childhood obesity. I honestly thought you were smarter than that.
All you’re doing is further demonizing fatness and marginalizing fat people – worst of all, fat children!
Your campaign is unintelligent at its core, because instead of simply encouraging all children to eat a nutritious variety of foods and stay physically active, you have made the choice to cast obesity itself as the enemy to be destroyed.
Not every fat person is unhealthy. Not every thin child eats well or stays physically active. But by linking your Let’s Move campaign to obesity, you are fostering hatred and ignorance. You are naïve to believe otherwise.
I don't disagree with promoting healthful eating and activity. It's inarguably worthwhile. What I have a problem with is pinning "FIGHT OBESITY" onto your Let's Move campaign.
If you promote healthful eating and physical activity, then you're automatically promoting a lifestyle that will reduce the weight of some children.
Therefore, why bring obesity into the equation at all, Mrs. Obama?
See, what happens is, the kids whose bodies don't shrink in response to carrot sticks and playing tag will be left feeling stigmatized. "What I am is wrong. I'm a freak. What I am is something everyone -- including the First Lady -- wants to wipe out. What I am is soooo incredibly wrong, that the First Lady chose to use her considerable platform to launch a nationwide campaign against what I am."
Mrs. Obama, your campaign assumes that all fat children are fat because they don't exercise or eat right. It's the same assumption so many people erroneously make about fat adults.
I've known kids who were just plain chubby, not because they overate, not because they weren't active. They were just chubby. Their bodies weren't finished yet. They were children, you see. And when they got older, they slimmed down -- naturally.
I've also known children who appeared "fat" by our societal standards, who were only reflecting their family's genetic code to be stocky. Not necessarily obese, but short and solid. As children, they "appeared" fat. However they, like the rest of their family, were healthy as a horse.
But what happens when you bring in an entire society, conducted by a misguided First Lady, who wants to fight what these kids are?
The kid who didn't have an eating disorder before might develop one now. Or develop another harmful way to cope with his or her anxiety. They're guaranteed to develop poor self-esteem. Because the entire country is telling them that what they are is wrong, and must be fought.
And WOW, no worse time to fill somebody's head with those messages than childhood if you really want them to stick.
Michelle Obama, you need to take "fighting obesity" out of the equation. You are obviously lacking in vision; otherwise, you would understand that focusing on the positive -- eating well and exercising -- is enough. Children who are perhaps fat because of how they eat will learn to eat better. PERIOD. Mission accomplished, without doing harm. But "fighting obesity" is DOING HARM.
Admittedly, it takes some extra-credit thinking to get it -- a willingness to think beyond the media messages we get spoon-fed every day. (Fat always causes disease -- therefore, you have carte blanche to demonize people who wear it to your heart's content. And thanks for towing the line, because it helps sell our products. Love, the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry.)
Nothing wrong with good nutrition. Nothing wrong with getting active.
But making children feel bad for what they are? Reinforcing for other children (and adults) that fat children are flawed creatures?
It's short-sighted and cruel.
Think about it.
Author, “Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large”
Coming in 2011 from Crown/Random House